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Jane Kelsey, Graduate Engineering Geologist, Atkins


Graduate Engineering Geologist

Your role at Atkins
I’m a Graduate Engineering Geologist, currently supervising site works at Heathrow, but in the office, I work on geological, geotechnical and infrastructure projects. I studied Geology as an Undergraduate and Engineering Geology as a Masters so a job in this field was the natural progression. I enjoy the challenges and variety of work that I am faced with each day.

Your role in the Reserves
I am a Geotechnical Technician / Geologist with the British Army.

My role in the Royal Engineers is firstly as a soldier, and secondly a specialised engineer. This allows me to provide expertise in the field of geology, geotechnics and engineering geology. I have had the privilege of teaching geology to regular soldiers on a water well drilling course, as well as answering geological queries remotely. Multiple times I have been called upon for my knowledge to identify water sources within host rocks or to identify a reliable source of aggregates when soldiers are already in theatre. Further training is dictated by me, either green soldiering skills, trade training or engineering skills. I can choose when I partake in my annual camp, not necessarily with my team, I could work with the water, power, rail or ports teams for examples.

In the military, you learn a range of transferable soft skills such as team work, working under extreme pressures, self-discipline, organisation and many more, all of which can be applied to any job. In terms of skills directly applicable to my job with Atkins, I’ve learnt new to use other geo-engineering software, I took part in a two-week Contaminated Land course, I’ve learnt to use drilling rigs and how to undertake geotechnical testing to British and UKAS Accredited standard.

My annual exercise this year was focussed on geophysical skills and training for real life situations. Geophysics is a non-intrusive tool used widely in site investigations in the civilian world. I had identified a skills gap and suggested that it would be beneficial for the reservists in the Unit to explore the Military geophysical capabilities. A week-long course was produced, teaching the reservists alongside the regular Royal Engineers how to use a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) and ERT (Electrical Resistivity Tomography). This was put into practice with a live exercise at Beacon Barracks, surveying the failed drainage system beneath the camp’s sports fields. The results of the exercise will hopefully save the military thousands of pounds and will allow the geophysics methods to be used elsewhere.

I am relatively new to both Atkins and the Army, but I have been offered many opportunities to deploy for short periods of time to aid with geotechnical jobs in theatre. The exercises I’ve taken part in have been a great opportunity to learn skills directly applicable in my civilian job which I would otherwise not have had the chance to.

Atkins approach to the reserves
I chose to accept my job offer with Atkins after reading about their protocol with reservists, allowing time off for annual camps and reserve training. As part of 170 Engineers Group, I have met multiple reservists who work for Atkins and SNC Lavalin. Knowing the company would appreciate that I had other commitments and I would be working alongside fellow reservists persuaded me to join.

My line manager has been very supportive, with the help of another Royal Engineers reservist in my office, who’s recruiting event I helped organise – my first point of contact within Atkins.

As a national reservist I serve a minimum of 19 days a year, which consists of a few weekends and a two-week annual summer camp. Atkins allow reservists an extra 10 days leave to fulfil training requirements, which would usually be taken for your unit’s annual exercise, but can be taken sporadically throughout the year if needed. This extra leave allows reservists to use their Annual Leave for holidays and relaxation, as believe it or not, sometimes work as a Reservist can be as stressful and as tiring as your day-to-day work!

What would you say to somebody interested in joining the reserves?
Consider whether you want to use your civilian skills or learn something completely new. If you join a specialised national unit, you’re committed to 19 days a year, whereas if you join your local unit, you’ll be committing to 27 days a year, including Tuesday evenings! It’s a great opportunity to network, meet people with a similar mindset and a reason to keep fit (if you need one). You’ll be offered amazing opportunities from mountain biking to operational tours abroad, to attending conferences around the world.

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